- #1

Wrichik Basu

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## Main Question or Discussion Point

Having spent five months as an undergraduate with physics major, I found that there are two types of students who come to study physics: 1. For a job, and 2. For pursuing research. This thread is concerned with the second type only. Among many other problems, here are two that have concerned me the most in the past and at present.

As an undergrad, I have to study classical mechanics (CM) in 1st semester. Now, I have taken some online courses in QM and QFT, read a number of books on these topics, and read papers on experimental particle physics research almost everyday. I never encounter CM while studying these topics. You need Lagrangian and Hamiltonian dynamics, but you don't need CM otherwise, right?

The fundamental question is, why can't the education system customize the syllabus according to a student's field of interest? The system is teaching me things that I most probably don't even need.

Now you might say that some things are to be studied as they are the basics. But what percentage of papers published every year in Physics are on/strictly require, as a prerequisite, classical mechanics? How many experimental particle physicists working on accelerators are required to derive moments of inertia of cylinders and cones? And how many string theorists require the derivation of Euler's equations in their work?

If the so-called "basics" are not applicable in the student's field of interest, why study them rigorously? The student can always study them himself if they are ever required, isn't it?

I am seriously interested in research, and am giving my best to prepare myself in my field of interest. I have spoken to some people about this, but no one seems interested unless I have great qualifications. Tell me: does marks guarantee knowledge? How can the marks in an exam determine my knowledge and ability to do research?

I get a paper of 50 marks full of questions in classical mechanics. If I am unable to answer, they draw the conclusion that I am not meant for physics. How is this a fair judgement? I can't do the difficult problems in CM, but I can read, understand and apply what I have learnt in QM. And with some help, I believe I will be able to learn advanced topics as well. Why am I being forced to study and being judged on topics which neither interest me, nor are applicable in my field of interest?

If you test a physicist, who works with accelerators, on renormalization, will that be a proper way of judging his/her knowledge?

What are your thoughts on these?

__#1: Teaching things that have no application in the student's field of interest__As an undergrad, I have to study classical mechanics (CM) in 1st semester. Now, I have taken some online courses in QM and QFT, read a number of books on these topics, and read papers on experimental particle physics research almost everyday. I never encounter CM while studying these topics. You need Lagrangian and Hamiltonian dynamics, but you don't need CM otherwise, right?

The fundamental question is, why can't the education system customize the syllabus according to a student's field of interest? The system is teaching me things that I most probably don't even need.

Now you might say that some things are to be studied as they are the basics. But what percentage of papers published every year in Physics are on/strictly require, as a prerequisite, classical mechanics? How many experimental particle physicists working on accelerators are required to derive moments of inertia of cylinders and cones? And how many string theorists require the derivation of Euler's equations in their work?

If the so-called "basics" are not applicable in the student's field of interest, why study them rigorously? The student can always study them himself if they are ever required, isn't it?

__#2: Marks in exams guarantee knowledge and vice-versa__I am seriously interested in research, and am giving my best to prepare myself in my field of interest. I have spoken to some people about this, but no one seems interested unless I have great qualifications. Tell me: does marks guarantee knowledge? How can the marks in an exam determine my knowledge and ability to do research?

I get a paper of 50 marks full of questions in classical mechanics. If I am unable to answer, they draw the conclusion that I am not meant for physics. How is this a fair judgement? I can't do the difficult problems in CM, but I can read, understand and apply what I have learnt in QM. And with some help, I believe I will be able to learn advanced topics as well. Why am I being forced to study and being judged on topics which neither interest me, nor are applicable in my field of interest?

If you test a physicist, who works with accelerators, on renormalization, will that be a proper way of judging his/her knowledge?

What are your thoughts on these?